Kids get to watch lots of cool shows, and we play them so Husband and I can eat dinner. Whenever “Elena of Avalor” comes on, I notice Husband goes silent and gets completely absorbed. When I try to engage him, he holds a hand up for me to wait till he can see the next plot twist, and I feel endless delight in making fun of him for this. It is noteworthy because no other kid show has this effect on him.
Thatâ€™s the phrase that has been appearing with my momâ€™s texts lately. I wondered if it was her trying to mollify the harshness of her messages, but it turned out it was an automated iphone option. In any case, in truth, we could both talk to each other with more â€œgentle effect.â€ Iâ€™m accustomed to keeping a faithful account of all her insults â€“ some of which are hurtful, but mostly, land like barb-less arrows and make me giggle more than anything.
Mom: You dress like a homeless woman.
Mom: And your children dress like homeless children.
Me: Then I should get food stamps. Itâ€™s very expensive to feed all of them.
Later that day, Boy Wonder Twin said â€œMom, youâ€™re not fat but youâ€™re getting fat.â€
Thatâ€™s normally what my takeaway would be from the day — a collection of character slams. The day was maybe ill-advised — a trip to Manhattan to see a holiday train show around the actual holidays, taking them to lunch in a restaurant, where Boy Wonder Twin was miserable enough he strangled me for 45 minutes and used my purse as a punching bag. But when I bought mom a coffee outside, and she didnâ€™t say how she respond how she wanted her coffee, and I urged â€œcome, on, come on, let’s go,â€ Coffee Guy said â€œTake it easy. We have time. Be gentle with mom. Be nice to mom.â€
And Iâ€™m like gosh darn it, heâ€™s right. Had he not intervened, I would not have seen my own behavior.
I need to speak to her (and others) in a manner â€œsent with gentle effect.â€
Also, Coffee Guy got our order wrong.
First Son is a remarkable young boy. I say this despite the fact that many may feel this about their young people, despite the fact that he sometimes greets me â€œWhatâ€™s the problem, bro,â€ despite that he recently said to me â€œyou are the worst mom ever.â€ (To which, I said, â€œyouâ€™re welcome,â€ because really, what else can one say to this ABSOLUTELY TRUE statement?) His teacher asked that we ask the kids about their research topics. His happens to be about butterflies.
Me: So are we going to see any butterflies today?
First Son: No silly, theyâ€™re all in Mexico and California.
Me: Is that right.
First Son: Yeah, they migrate to warmer weather, lay their eggs and die. They live one year and the babies are like orphans because they donâ€™t have a mom and dad.
For some reason, I was just bowled over about this. I donâ€™t think I ever knew this about butterflies, and it was a nice conversation to have. Earlier that week, my mother had stated: â€œYou donâ€™t help me. I only help you. You didnâ€™t even help me when I was sick. You are just pinned down by your three babies.â€ Since Iâ€™m always plagued with the feeling that Iâ€™m not doing enough for all the people in my life, just got my gilded guilt going. It was just a nice moment of emoting â€“ her consistent feelings of abandonment, and mine of guilt, because itâ€™s true. I would help her more if I could, but I truly have moments where there is nothing left to give. It was funny to hear First Son story, which on that day I spoke to my mom, I heard as a tale of giving everything up for your kids.
We read Ray Bradbury short stories in junior high school or high school. Maybe it was the collection called â€œThe Illustrated Man.â€ He had one where African Americans were so hurt and fed up to decades of vicious, racist, horrific treatment that they leave the planet and move to Mars. Eventually, one white astronaut comes to visit and said the white Americans had destroyed the earth and he was there to see if they would accept earth residents, but that he would understand if they would not.
One African Martian woman leads the discussion that begins the process of them considering the request. She reviews each place on the earth where a bad memory had a occurredâ€”is that tree where uncle James was lynched gone? Is that plantation where my entire family was whipped gone? They went through a litany of landmarks where severe trespasses had been committed against each individual African Martian, and found the answer was that spot had be scorched, and it began a healing profound enough that they were able to allow them to take in the white earthlings.
I have been thinking about that story in this post-election landscape. Every day, I click on the newspaper and there is news of violence, hatred, coldness to anotherâ€™s fate, and I just, I donâ€™t know, that story has been rattling around my brain.